NBA

Paul George insists Clippers are still in the 'driver seat' despite another collapse

By Sports Desk September 14, 2020

Paul George is adamant the Los Angeles Clippers remain in the "driver seat" despite another alarming collapse against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semi-finals.

The Clippers blew a 19-point lead in Orlando as the Nuggets forced a deciding Game 7 with a 111-98 victory on Sunday.

It followed the Clippers giving up a 16-point lead in the previous contest, but George still fancies the team's chances of progressing to a Conference Finals series with the Los Angeles Lakers.

"It's positive," George said when asked about the mood among the roster.

"This group's staying together. We still in the driver seat. It's not a panic mode. We have a Game 7. I like our odds with our group. We put ourselves in this position and it's on us to get ourselves out of it.

"We know what we are up against. We have the utmost respect for them as opponents, but I like our chances. I like our odds. I like what we have. Again, it's on us to finish this out.

"We've just got to go back to the film and see what we are doing. I think that's the only question that needs to be answered is why aren't we matching them."

Team-mate Kawhi Leonard, who scored 25 points, said it was a case of the team going "cold" in a third quarter in which the Clippers shot four-for-20.

"We just went cold. We went cold in that third quarter. That's it. We kept getting to the paint, passing the ball, got a little stagnant and just couldn't make shots," Leonard said.

"Just got to leave it all out on the floor and make sure we are paying attention to detail and executing and communicating on the defensive end and that's all we can do, go out there and play hard and just make sure we know the game plan."

The Nuggets' charge came at a pivotal moment when Jamal Murray was left in pain when a layup was blocked by George, who nailed a three at the other end to put the Clippers into their biggest lead.

Nikola Jokic stepped up to the plate, finishing with 34 points including draining four of his six three-point attempts.

"It hurt, it hurt a lot," Murray said of the incident with George. "I was going to come out but not in Game 6, not in an elimination game. Not when my team needed me, and they had my back.

"Everybody's talking about me, but I didn't do nothing. Everybody came in and did their job and more."

On Jokic's performance, Murray added: "He's hitting one-leg step-backs, fading away off one leg with a hand in his face consecutive times, so I'd say he's the best player in the world.

"It was a team effort, but Joker definitely carried us throughout the game."

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    LeBron James took on the responsibility of guarding Jamal Murray down the stretch because he knew it was "winning time" for the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4. 

    With the Lakers holding a four-point lead with just over five minutes remaining in the final quarter, and Murray on 28 points on 12-for-17 shooting, James switched onto the Denver Nuggets guard. 

    Murray was held to 0-for-2 shooting by the four-time NBA MVP, with his four points in the last five minutes coming from the free throw line. 

    The Lakers consequently closed out a 114-108 victory to move 3-1 up in the Western Conference Finals. 

    Asked why he put himself on Murray, James said: "I knew it was winning time, and Jamal had it going. The kid is special. He has an array of shots. Triple threat from the three, mid-range and also in the paint. 

    "For me, it's just trusting my defensive keys. Trusting my study of film. Trusting personnel. And living with the results. I told my team-mates that I had him and everyone else can kind of stay at bay and stay home. 

    "I was able to get a couple stops and we were able to rebound the basketball, which is the most important thing." 

    James is averaging 34.4 minutes in the playoffs, which is the fewest of his career – his previous low was 38.2 with the Miami Heat in 2013-14. 

    The 17-year veteran denied that having less time on court helped him stay fresh to guard Murray in the closing stages. 

    "I don't reserve any energy. I'm on the floor, I give it all I've got. If I need a break, I ask for a break. Coach has done a good job of getting me out throughout the course of the game," said James. 

    "I don't look at it as a reserve tank. I've got pretty good energy when I'm on the floor all the time. It's winning time and I don't have a chance or time to be feeling tired. 

    "I'm tired now. That's when I'm tired, when it's zeros on the clock. That's when I'm tired. I'm not tired during the game."

    Murray appreciated the respect the Lakers afforded him but felt the Nuggets, who have come back from 3-1 deficits to advance in the past two rounds, still should have found a way to win. 

    He said: "I mean, they switched AD [Anthony Davis] on me to be on him, too. 

    "Obviously, with LeBron I do the same stuff I do when I see [Alex] Caruso, when I see [Rajon] Rondo and KCP [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope], and Kawhi [Leonard], Paul George and Pat Bev [Patrick Beverley]. 

    "I mean, I do the same thing. Appreciate the respect, but we've got to win the game."

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    Anthony Davis provided a positive assessment over the ankle injury he suffered in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, declaring: "I'll be fine."

    Davis rolled his ankle in the fourth quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers' 114-108 triumph over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday, putting them 3-1 up in the best-of-seven series and on the brink of a place in the NBA Finals.

    Despite the setback, the 27-year-old still led the Lakers in terms of scoring, contributing 34 points as he played 41 minutes.

    Game 5 takes place on Saturday, with Davis confident of being fit for action as Los Angeles aim to close out the Nuggets and progress to the NBA Finals.

    "Ankle feels fine," the seven-time All-Star told the media. "Got tonight, tomorrow before the game to get it back to, I don't want to say back to where it was, but good enough to play.

    "Rolled it pretty bad but not too bad. I'll be fine."

    While the Lakers are clearly firmly in control, they will be wary of allowing the Nuggets to climb off the canvas following their heroics in the previous two rounds.

    Denver battled back from 3-1 deficits to see off the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers, leading Davis to speak out about the dangers of taking anything for granted.

    "You know, like I said last game, we've got to put them away," he said. 

    "They are going to continue to fight, no matter what the score is, no matter what the situation is, we just have to make sure we counter everything they do."

    The Lakers have not reached the NBA Finals since 2010, which was also the last time they were crowned champions.

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    LeBron James and fellow All-Star Anthony Davis led the top-seeded Lakers, who moved 3-1 ahead in the NBA playoffs at Walt Disney World Resort on Thursday.

    James put up 26 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in a performance just shy of a triple-double, while Davis had a game-high 34 points.

    There was a worrying moment in the fourth quarter when Davis rolled around in pain after landing on his ankle, but he continued.

    Murray dazzled once again in Orlando, Florida, where the Nuggets star posted 32 points and eight rebounds – including a memorable Michael Jordan-esque drive to the basket.

    But the Nuggets – who became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason en route to the Conference finals – find themselves in a familiar position, down 3-1.

    The Lakers' dominance off the boards proved decisive as the Nuggets failed to make a field goal during the last three minutes, 28 seconds – missing their final five attempts.

    Now, the Lakers are one win away from their first trip to the NBA Finals since winning their last championship in 2010.

    Lakers veteran Dwight Howard finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Nuggets star Nikola Jokic was limited to just 16 points.

     

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